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Ghostly Temptations: Artistic and Sexual Empowerment in Academia

A symposium on ghosts, sexuality and intellectual practice at the Chinese University of Hong Kong
30 October 2017 (Mon) 3-9pm @ Fung King Hey Bldg., CUHK
Schedule of Events

Judith Zeitlin

Rebirth of The Artistic Academy Roundtable Discussion

3-5pm @ G24 Fung King Hey Bldg., CUHK

Throughout Chinese cultural history, the ghost has exemplified a fictional figure who is seductive yet abject, who visits humans and helps them to regain balance in their intellects and sex lives. In this workshop, Prof. Judith Zeitlin and other invited artists and academics will give short position statements about the limits of academic thought and benefits of artistic approaches that are less analytical, more embodied and more queer. Rather than arguing theoretically for an artistic type of academy, the workshop format encourages participants to share concrete examples of their art or artistic process that defies academic thought or evaluation. While institutionally, it is very difficult to defend or develop artistic approaches in the Humanities and Social Sciences, nonetheless there is a large domain of creativity and critical thinking that challenge and reanimate academic styles of experiencing and representing cultural knowledge. Prof. Judith Zeitlin will open the workshop with a discussion of one of her creative ghost operas and then invite others to chime in.


Prof. Judith Zeitlin (U. Chicago), Prof. Helen Grace (U. Sydney), Prof. Lo Kwai Cheung (HKBU), Prof. Katrien Jacobs (CUHK), Prof. Benny Lim (CUHK), Dr. Li Tiecheng (CUHK), Dr. Isaac Leung (EUHK), Dr. Kacey Wong (Artist), Dr. Ian Fong (Independent Scholar), Ms. Tammy Cheung (Filmmaker)

Spirit Marriage & Phantom Heroines: From Chinese Literature to East Asian Film & Media

Keynote Lecture by Prof. Judith Zeitlin (U. Chicago) 

7-9pm @ LT1 Swire Hall, CUHK

This talk will explore how the age-old Chinese ritual of spirit marriage is imaginatively reconfigured in traditional tales of the strange and visually transformed in film and TV. “Spirit marriage” (youhun幽婚、minghun冥婚) refers to the custom of arranging a posthumous marriage for a son or daughter who died unmarried. The influence of spirit marriage is often evident in the literary tradition of the ghost romance, in certain tales where a female ghost enters into a sexual liaison with a human male. Rather than simply reading such ghost stories as vestiges of this cultural practice, the talk argues that the interest of such narratives lies in their ability to animate ritual fictions, to play out the imagined consequences of ritual actions. Film and TV provide a particularly fertile medium for reinterpreting spirit marriage to explore issues of contemporary relevance such as colonialism and gender non-conformity.

Judith T. Zeitlin is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages & Civilizations at the University of Chicago. She received her PhD from Harvard in 1988 and taught on the faculty of Cornell and Harvard before moving to Chicago in 1994. Her work combines literary history of the Ming-Qing period (16th-19th centuries) with other disciplines, particularly visual and material culture, music and performance, as well as gender studies, medicine and film. Her many publications on Chinese fiction and drama include The Phantom Heroine: Ghosts and Gender in Seventeenth-Century Chinese Literature (2007), Historian of the Strange: Pu Songling and the Chinese Classical Tale (1993), and four co-edited works: Performing Images: Opera in Chinese Visual Culture (2014), “Chinese Opera Film,” a special issue of The Opera Quarterly (2010), Thinking with Cases: Specialist Knowledge in Chinese Cultural History (2007), and Writing and Materiality in China (2003). The recipient of fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), she is currently writing a book on the culture of musical entertainment in early modern China.

More information


Prof. Pang Laikwan (Cultural & Religious Studies, CUHK)

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